pondering priorities

Depending on the weather, officials estimate it will cost up to $200,000 to heat ATCO Place during the Canada Winter Games.

Depending on the weather, officials estimate it will cost up to $200,000 to heat ATCO Place during the Canada Winter Games.

In case you missed it, ATCO Place is that 5,000-square-metre (read really, really big) tent on Second Avenue.

It’s 19 metres tall — that is, it has an impossibly high ceiling.

And it’s made of polyethylene — the same stuff the Beatles swaddled Pam in during Abbey Road’s frantic bit.

The tent has thick polyethylene, but not that thick — it will shed heat faster than a Yukon streaker.

And so it’s going to cost a pile of cash, even though organizers are keeping the thermometers at a comfy minus five. The Canada Games Host Society will pay the bill.

It’s a non-profit organization, sponsored largely through government — federal, territorial and municipal.

So, in a circuitous route, the public will be paying for the heat.

Which is fine.

But, though it’s apples and oranges, the $200,000, two-week heating bill has spurred us to question Yukon’s priorities.

We could talk about a youth shelter, a food bank or any number of things.

But the one we’ve been discussing lately has been the aboriginal justice strategy, which recently ground to a halt.

Ottawa used to pitch $45,000 a year towards the $90,000 program (the Yukon’s Health and Social Services department covered the other $45,000).

The program helped keep First Nations youth out of jail. But the federal Conservative Party has allowed that contribution to lapse, and the program has started to fall apart — the support agencies aren’t willing to take on youth without knowing they can continue their support past fiscal year end in March.

While it’s considering stepping up to cover Ottawa’s funding gap, the Yukon hasn’t announced anything yet.

So youth that might have had a shot outside jail are starting to go to trial within site of ATCO Place.

The heating costs could have covered Ottawa’s portion of the justice strategy for almost four and a half years.

At least that’s one of the things it could have funded. One of many.

Instead, a tent will be bleeding heat into the Yukon winter. (RM)


Irwin Armstrong

Irwin Armstrong was a local character. A well-known oldtimer.

He’s been dead a few years, though some might still remember him.

He ran for mayor a couple of times.

On the hustings, he promised to build a dome over Whitehorse. And he promised access to dance halls. He liked dance halls — reminded him of a happier time.

Everyone thought, rightly, that he was nuts.

Nevertheless, today we’ve erected a dome-like tent on Second Avenue. And, for a couple of weeks, people will dance inside it.

Irwin, it seems, finally got his wish.

Too bad he wasn’t around to see it. And dance. (RM)